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Green Building Curmudgeon

Losing Ground

I started off pretty far to the left on the adoption curve and have consistently lost ground over the past few years. I look forward to catching up in the near future.

When I first ventured into green building early in the 21st century, I was ahead of most people on the curve. Using materials and methods that were practically unheard of in the industry, I was able to quickly take a leadership position in green remodeling.

Over the next few years, the daily demands of running a construction business made it difficult to keep up with the industry as much as I would have liked, and now, having stopped building and renovating, I find myself falling further behind every day.

As a consultant, I still have the opportunity to work with homeowners and contractors, helping them step up their products to higher performance levels, but I still do not see as much state-of-the-art technology as I would like. When I see colleagues working on cutting-edge projects, I find myself getting jealous, and consider getting back into building, just to stay on course and not fall further behind. Then I take a deep breath, and remember just how much the actual building process drove me nuts.

I recognized a long time ago that being a contractor made me crazy most of the time. There are many things about contracting that I like, but they tend to be outweighed by the things that I don’t like, such as anxiety, loss of sleep, and a generally elevated stress level. I was always very impressed with friends in the business who were able to leave work at work every day and simply didn’t allow the stresses to get to them 24/7. Unfortunately, I am not so lucky.

Nearing the end of construction of a house I built in 2006-’07, my girlfriend looked at me and said, “Do you think that sometime we could talk about something other than how stressed out you are about this project?” Somewhat shocked, I thought about what she said, thanked her profusely for cluing me in, and made a concerted effort to separate my life from my work.

If I take on any construction jobs in the future, I will have to keep that need for separation in mind. Right now, I am toying with the idea of building myself a new house. I am worried about the impact it will have on my personal life and excited about the possibility of pushing the envelope of green building. I am looking at alternative wall structures like Durisol and Hebel block, considering passive solar options (which could be a challenge with all the old-growth trees on my in-town lot), and mulling over how to design and build the most efficient house I possibly can.

Chances are I will eventually go ahead with this project, but inertia is a strong force to overcome. I’ll have to see how the economy turns out over the next year or so before I commit to taking on more debt. Then again, if my work starts to slow down, I am going to have to find something to do with my time—since I live my work, and generally really enjoy it, I have never developed any hobbies to keep me busy. I’ll keep you posted.


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